A chaplain's doubt...

“Doubt as sin. — Christianity has done its utmost to close the circle and declared even doubt to be sin. One is supposed to be cast into belief without reason, by a miracle, and from then on to swim in it as in the brightest and least ambiguous of elements: even a glance towards land, even the thought that one perhaps exists for something else as well as swimming, even the slightest impulse of our amphibious nature — is sin! And notice that all this means that the foundation of belief and all reflection on its origin is likewise excluded as sinful. What is wanted are blindness and intoxication and an eternal song over the waves in which reason has drowned.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality

I remember listening this last year as one of my co-residents spoke of Christianity as a practice rather than as a belief system. As Christians, we ask each other, "What do you believe?" Even the other day, a woman in my apartment complex, after hearing that I'm a chaplain and asking what church I belonged to (I should have taken a bit of a hint when she'd never heard of the UCC), posed that question to me... and I froze. "Well, that's a pretty big question. What do you mean?"

"Well, do you believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior?" 

I wanted to run, hightail it out of there faster than I lost my hair. I wanted to yell and scream about how I felt like belief shouldn't be so important. I wanted to rationalize and justify my own uncertainties by talking about how chaplaincy isn't evangelism — not in the traditional sense. But I didn't. I came up with some roundabout answer that didn't really answer her question, and it certainly didn't convince her (or me) of the sincerity of my faith... or my call.

Every mental act is composed of doubt and belief, but it is belief that is the positive, it is belief that sustains thought and holds the world together. ― Søren Kierkegaard

It's been just shy of a month since I moved to Vantucky (one of Vancouver's nicknames... my other options being Vansterdam and the Couve). It's been a hard transition, truth be told. Hard getting used to new coworkers and a new hospital, hard acclimating to the time difference between me and the people I love, hard listening to the voice of Google Maps on a regular basis in my attempt to avoid getting hopelessly lost. I've managed to feel some sense of connection with my friends and family, particularly my mom who has seemingly shifted her sleep schedule to accommodate my calling later and gotten me through a couple of grocery store panic attacks. But the one connection I've not really maintained (or perhaps been able to regain after feeling like I lost it a long time ago) is that with God.

I hoped that moving here where the trees are abundant, where the mountains are real, where I'm close to the water, I'd rediscover my faith. Then again, being the Four that I am, I'm really hoping for that reconnection to be emotional, dramatic, loud, and a bit flamboyant. That probably won't happen. It didn't for Elijah, and it won't for me.

Sometimes I think it is my mission to bring faith to the faithless, and doubt to the faithful ― Paul Tillich

Rambling. I do it when I feel vulnerable. Doubt makes me feel vulnerable. I like people to think I have my shit together, that I know something about something. I like to feel competent and trustworthy. But in the world of chaplaincy, of caring for the spirit in the throes of crisis and loss, it would seem my doubt and disbelief are gifts. It isn't that I disbelieve in a *fill in the blank with a typical, evangelical Christian adjective* God. It's that I don't mind questions. I hate not knowing, but I don't mind the questions that come out of the not knowing.

In one of my last verbatims that I gave to Amy, I wrote out a prayer that I offered for a patient. She remarked, "It sounds like you believed what you were praying." And she was right: I did. That isn't always the case. Most of the time, I feel like I'm taking the advice Peter Böhler gave to John Wesley about preaching faith until you have it... or in my case, praying it. I imagine sometimes that I'll be praying it until I die, and it will be God's gift to me in death to finally have it made complete. Until I can hear Jesus say, "You're faith has made you well," I'm content to hear him say, "Your doubt makes you whole."

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photo credit: Seyed Zamani (via Flickr)